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Walking in the footsteps of history at Mologa

By Sophie Baldwin

There’s no real way to pin down Mologa, there’s no town, not even a pub. But SOPHIE BALDWIN found through a remarkable tribute to the district’s connection to Anzac Day there is a fiercely proud sense of community

ANZAC Day is commemorated across the country in many ways and for many different reasons, but they don’t come much more Australian than the sight of 10 haybale soldiers standing at Mologa, near Pyramid Hill.

For designer and artist Denise Leed, the significance of the bales has a poignant and double meaning.

Not only do they represent 10 fallen Mologa men who went to World War I only to be lost in battle, they also represent a dream of Denise’s late husband Allan, who was tragically killed in an accident on the family property last July.

Allan wanted to celebrate the centenary of the unveiling of the Mologa War Memorial by honouring the fallen – each bale reflects the personal details of the soldiers, right down to their eye colour – as well as their medals.

The Memorial was unveiled in 1920 by Sarah Morrow, who had lost three of her five sons at war.

Allan had lost two of his uncles – Ray Leed and Robert Campbell. In the early 2010s the community revived Services at the Memorial, which is now maintained by locals (including the local Landcare group).

There is no denying the haybale sculptures are an eye-catching spectacle for those driving along the Bendigo-Pyramid Road, but Denise said they wouldn’t have come to fruition without the help of family and friends who rallied around to get the job done.

“Allan didn’t tell anyone about what he wanted to do but he talked about it frequently. He was the keeper of the family history,” Denise said.

She said Allan only began to learn about the family’s connection to World War I when the couple bought a 125-acre property from his uncle Jack, who sat Allan down for a family history lesson every time he dropped around with a payment for the property.

“It was a big jigsaw puzzle and Allan loved hearing; and learning, all about it. Uncle Ray grew up in the family home Allan and I shared since 1978,” she said.

Both Allan and Denise went on to develop a keen interest in Australian military and visited France twice – including the centenary of the Battle of Fromelles.

Of the 28 soldiers who left Mologa to serve in World War I, 10 were killed.

Private John Theodore Price

A 5’9” fresh faced, grey eyed, red haired farm labourer. Theodore had just turned 18 when he enlisted at Cobram 20/3/1916 in the infantry with the 46th Battalion.

He had several bouts of mumps in France. In March 1917 before returning to the front he decided to break away from camp resulting in a criminal charge and loss of a fortnight’s pay.

On 11/4/1917 on the Hindenburg Line, the 46th Battalion led four tanks in an attack on Bullecourt. An overwhelming counterattack at 11.30am forced a retreat and resulted in 378 killed, wounded or missing.

Still a teenager when he died, Private Price, like Robert Campbell, is named on the Villers Bretonneux Memorial to honour those killed in France with no known grave.

Private Patrick John Ryan

A sallow, grey eyed, brown haired man standing 5’6.5”. Patrick was born at Barford north of Kyneton and was labouring in Mologa when enlisted 13/7/1915 as 23-year-old.

Infantry trained in the 22nd Battalion he joined the 57th Battalion in Egypt. He was killed on the same day and probably with the same shell that wounded and killed Ray Leed on 15/7/1916.

He is interred in the military cemetery Ruedu-Bois, 4.5 miles south west of Armentie`res, two graves from David Ray Leed.

Private David Ray Leed

He was 5’7.5”, fair skinned, blue eyed and dark haired and just under 22 years old.

Ray was the second person from Mologa to enlist 17/7/1915. Infantry trained with the 23rd Battalion he transferred to the 57th Battalion in Egypt.

A farmer, popular footballer and a capable writer, he was killed four days before Australia’s first battle on the Western Front on 15/7/1916 at Fromelles, Flanders and is buried at Rue-du-Bois, Armentie`res.

He was approximately the 15th soldier killed from the battalion on the second day of fighting – 10 were killed that day between 9.15 and 11.30pm.

Corporal William Street

A 5’8” blue eyed, brown haired labourer. William was nearly 24 at enlistment on 14/2/1916 and was a machine gunner in the 38th Battalion.

He had bouts in hospital with scabies and mumps. In the third battle of Ypres toward Passchendaele on 13/10/1917 he received gunshot wounds to the head and left side and died 18 days later.

He was one of 11 killed and 300 wounded in the advance on the Red Line and is buried at Nine Elms Cemetery, Poperinge Belgium.

Corporal David Leslie Townsend

Eldest of nine children, he was a blue eyed, brown haired 21-year-old 5’7” labourer who enlisted 7/2/1916.

A machine gunner in the 38th battalion, appointed Lance Corporal 26/6/1917. On 14/10/1917 he received a gunshot wound to his left thigh and was invalided in England.

He was killed 31/8/1918 dying instantly when shot in the head in the advance to victory between the villages of Curlu and Clery before the battle of Mont St Quentin.

He is buried at Hem Farm at the southern end of the sphere of involvement of the AIF.

Private Robert William Campbell

The third from Mologa to enlist. Robert boarded with the Leed family and enlisted 22/7/1915, five days after Ray, as a gunner.

As a teacher he began training at Epsom as a sergeant with the 7th then reclassified and joined the 57th Battalion in Egypt.

Tall, dark haired with brown eyes, he was the first from Mologa to be wounded 13/7/1916 at Fromelles. At 6’1.5” he was six inches taller than average and with 50 per cent of soldiers going into the trenches without helmets it is no wonder he received a gunshot wound so early.

Evacuated he missed the disaster of Fromelles not knowing Ray Leed had been killed.

It was only 12 days after returning to his unit that he was blown to pieces by high explosives on the night of 23/11/1916 at Gueudecourt, unluckily four days after the official last day of the battle of Somme.

He has no known grave. Given information it is likely Leed, Ryan and Campbell never even fired a shot in the war.

Private Albert Wilfred Marlow

He was a 5’8” brown eyed, black haired teenager with a dark complexion, Albert was a farm labourer and nearly 19.

He was the youngest of the Marlow brothers and joined the 38th Battalion 28/9/1916. Still a teenager he was killed 17/7/1917 at Messines Ridge, Belgium and is buried at Kandahar Farm cemetery, Ploegsteert.

Private Charles Marlow

The oldest of the Marlow boys, 5’8”, dark haired, brown eyed with a fair complexion. A farmer, he was 25 at enlistment with the 38th Battalion.

He was killed by artillery fire on the night 26/4/1918 during the German spring offensive when enemy advanced west.

He was buried at Heilly Cemetery then reinterred at Ribemont Cemetery on the Somme.

Corporal George Tennyson Marlow

Blue eyed, brown haired with a fair complexion 5’7”, 22-year-old farm hand.

He was first to enlist from Mologa on 12/6/1915 in the 2nd Light Trench Mortar Battery of the 7th Battalion. On 21/9/1917 in the first hour of advance on Polygon Wood between 5.40 and 6.40am, near Fitz Clarence farm, he received a fatal gunshot wound to the stomach and was also hit in the right leg.

He is buried at Lijssenthoek Cemetery, Belgium, 13km from his brother.

Private Daniel O’Sullivan

Real name Christopher Cooney (his father walked out on the family when he was small).

Fair haired blue eyed 30-year-old 5’4.5”, born at Mansfield. Daniel enlisted 28/2/1916 with the 6th and transferred to the 60th Battalion.

He was working as a labourer on the Mologa railway and enlisted in Bendigo. Just 200m from where Robert Campbell was killed four days earlier, Daniel received gunshot wounds to the thighs, right arm and face.

On evacuation to England he died at 11pm in 3rd Stationary Hospital, Rouen and is buried at St Sever Military Cemetery.